The use of direct out-of-pocket payments to finance general practitioner (GP) care by the majority of the population in Ireland is unusual in a European context. Currently, approximately 40% of the population have means-tested access to free GP care, while the remainder must pay the full out-of-pocket cost. In this paper, we use data from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) to examine the impact of the current system of public healthcare entitlements on GP utilisation among the older population. Using difference-in-difference propensity score matching methods, we find significant effects of changes in public healthcare entitlements on GP utilisation (i.e. introducing user fees reduces utilisation, while removing them increases utilisation). There is limited evidence of offset effects on other types of healthcare utilisation. The results have direct implications for current Irish health policy, and add to the international literature on the effects of insurance on healthcare utilisation.
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